First published in True Faith magazine, Summer 2013.
“Do ‘La Bamba’!” Such is life when you are tonight’s support act, Los Lobos. Twenty-five years after the novelty cover hit which broke you into the big time, and all your multi-Grammy award winning success, it’s not the fusion of styles that won all those plaudits which the audience calls for; it’s the novelty hit. Give them credit, they played it eventually, but only briefly before segueing into Northern Soul classic ‘Good Lovin’. I’d be bored after 25 years too.
Main event Neil Young, with band Crazy Horse in tow for this tour, evidently has the same problems. His career spans nearly 50 years and interest in playing a greatest hits package clearly faded long ago if it ever existed. With such a long career, it’s inevitable that some fans be disappointed that their particular favourites were omitted, but even so the setlist was a strange one. There are extended jam sessions, and then there are 20-minute versions of “Fuckin’ Up” for instance. Fifteen songs in two and a half hours points to the overblown nature of that being the norm rather than the exception. Only three of those fifteen came from most recent album “Psychedelic Pill” along with another new song, and the earliest played was a Buffalo Springfield number so the entire breadth of his career was covered. However the choices meant that the night came across like an alternate history of Young’s output. If you’d been to every tour he’d ever done no doubt this would be a godsend, with the flipside being that if this was the first time you’d seen him you might be disappointed. The bottom line is you can’t please everyone.
Despite Crazy Horse looking like they’re ready for the knacker’s yard, Frank Sampedro for one reminding me of David Puttnam, they’re still an admirably tight and dynamic band. Young’s guitar work is enthralling as ever, pulling off the difficult feat of being musical in tone and excitingly cutting all at the same time. All together, they make an impressive noise. even if as stated earlier some of the songs were dwelled upon rather too much. This is where punk came in nearly forty years ago isn’t it? But as “Hey Hey My My”, puts it, written in response to the possibility of punk making him obsolete, “once you’re gone you can’t come back” and Young just keeps on finding an audience.